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All the Right Points?

Sometimes, I dispair of finding basic critical thinking skills amongst certain groups of people. One of the latest reasons is this.

Norman Podhoretz has penned a version of the ‘everyone said they had WMD’ line defending President Bush and Co. in the new edition of Commentary. Call it the higher mumbojumbo. Kevin Drum does a very nice and understated job of dismantling the argument. It’s well worth a few moments of your time to read (Kevin, not Norm). He hits all the right points.

– Josh Marshall

The substantial, footnoted and well organized Podhoretz article set out to rebuke the ceaseless shrill chant of “Bush lied, people died” by pointing out that “Bush lied” is itself a lie. The response by Kevin Drum that Josh Marshal cites above is, by comparision, short, devoid of facts, and filled with the types of logical fallacies that are only brought out when there are no better arguments available to the writer.

The basic thesis of both articles is whether or not Bush lied about Iraqi WMDs prior to the war. Drum’s article, at 6 short paragraphs, is easy to analyze for content, so let’s look at his assertions.

INR, for example, thought the African uranium was bogus. DIA thought our prime witness for Iraqi-al-Qaeda WMD collaboration was lying. The Air Force found the evidence on drones to be laughable. DOE didn’t believe in the aluminum tubes.

On INR and ‘African uranium’, Drum carefully avoids describing what was bogus, so he fails to identify a lie. al-Qaeda is not properly part of the thesis. Nor are the ‘drones’. DOE’s opinion on the tubes’ use in centrifuges was in direct contradiction to the French who tested them, who according to Wilkerson:

said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by God, we did it to this RPM, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments?

In Drum’s 3rd paragraph, we have:

Nor does Podhoretz apply himself to the entire period before the war. He stops his investigation at the end of 2002. But that’s not when we went to war. We went to war in March 2003, and by that time UN inspectors had been combing Iraq for months with the help of U.S. intelligence. They found nothing

Not true.

Podhoretz included the 2003 State of the Union Address. We presented our conclusion to the U.N on February 5th. Drum leaves out of consideration the number of WMDs such as poison gas shells and bombs that have been found and reported. Does Drum think you can just make a phone call and have U.N. resolutions passed and tanks moving in 24 hours? One month or so is not bad. And about those U.N. inspections, Wilkerson says:

when you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical-weapons ASP—Ammunition Supply Point—with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the UN inspectors wheeling in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP, and everything is changed, everything is clean. . . . But George [Tenet] was convinced, John McLaughlin [Tenet’s deputy] was convinced, that what we were presented [for Powell’s UN speech] was accurate.

Just for the record, Wilkerson is not one of the big defenders of the Bush administration these days.

Drum is even more dismissive with his “And of course there’s the nukes.” paragraph. But nukes are just about all he’s brought up so far. Unfortunately, he almost completely ignores the fact that bio and chemical devices are also WMDs. Drum not only fails to dismantle Podhoretz’s argument, he fails almost completely to address it. He seems to leave out facts entirely, and to rely on his readers to be sympathetic and uncritical. In this, Josh Marshall was entirely reliable.

“Hits all the right points”? I score both Drum and Marshall as pointlessly shooting a clean miss.

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